Windows 8 a step forward in security, researcher says

A researcher examining early releases of Microsoft's new operating system says Windows 8 makes it harder to exploit vulnerabilities.

Microsoft’s new operating system builds on existing code from previous versions and represents a step forward in security, said security researcher Chris Valasek, who has been examining early releases of Windows 8.

“As a security practitioner, I like the thing they have put in place to make it harder to exploit,” he said. Microsoft has become more security conscious, he said, and the benefits of the new OS probably will outweigh the risks.

Valasek, a senior security researcher at Coverity, has been analyzing Windows 8 since the release of the developer’s version last fall and now is looking at the Consumer Preview that was released in February.


Related stories:

Windows 8's new look makes sense, if you can take the shock

Windows 8 secure boot: Is it really Microsoft vs. Linux?


A release preview version is expected to be made public in June, and the final release is expected in October, although that is subject to change. Valasek will present his findings on the security in the new operating system at the Black Hat Briefings in July.

He said Windows 8 benefits from the fact that, in spite of the new Metro interface that is intended to provide a common look and feel across both mobile and desktop platforms, a lot of the code has carried over from Windows 7. The jump from 7 to 8 is not as great as that from XP to Vista, so developers have been able to mature the code without greatly increasing the attack space offered by new code.

At the same time, new defenses have been added.

“The most interesting thing is, they have put many more exploit mitigation technologies into Windows 8,” Valasek said.

These technologies address and protect against the common characteristics of vulnerabilities so that possibly malicious actions can be identified, examined and blocked even if the specific vulnerability has not been identified.

“They are willing to accept that there are going to be software vulnerabilities,” he said. “But the exploit mitigation makes it harder to turn a vulnerability into an exploit and compromise the machine, raising the bar for attackers.”

Microsoft has been using exploit mitigation since the release of Service Pack 2 for XP. “They have made leaps and bounds since then,” he said. “It takes a lot of effort to make them work without compromising other Microsoft and third-party software.”

Several security enhancements are being included for the mobile environment that Windows 8 will be operating in, Valasek said. There will be an app store for the OS, and Microsoft has added more granular controls on how these applications can operate.

With the current low-medium-high integrity levels, applications with lower integrity are not allowed to write to areas of higher integrity in an effort to block the installation and spread of malicious code. But it does not prevent a low-integrity application from stealing information by reading higher-level processes.

Under Windows 8, applications will have policies declaring their activities and purposes and these will be used to restrict operations so that covert activities will be harder to carry out. Valasek said this is a step forward in controlling malicious applications, although it does not eliminate the risk. “The problem isn’t going to be solved overnight,” he said.

There also will be two versions of Internet Explorer 10 on the new OS. When operated with the Metro interface for mobile environments, it will support only HTML5, the latest version of the markup language for Web content, with no support for third-party plug-ins such as Flash and Java that have been the target of malicious exploits.

“That really takes a lot of risk away from Internet Explorer,” Valasek said. “They will probably be giving some things up” in this mode, but IE 10 with support for plug-ins can be run on desktop computers.

Microsoft has made thousands of changes in pre-release versions of Windows 8, and additional changes are likely before the final release.

“They are not minor details by any means,” Valasek said of changes made to date. “But they are not life-altering.” He said he expects that future changes made before the final release are likely to shore up security rather than expose more vulnerabilities.

 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.